LOS ANGELES—A 26-year-old man has been mistakenly cremated after a Los Angeles County Coroner’s technician confused his remains with those of another man with the same name.
Two men named Jorge Hernandez were at the morgue. One died of an accidental drug overdose earlier this month and the other was indigent and scheduled to be cremated, coroner’s spokesman Armand Montiel told The Los Angeles Times.
The mistake occurred when a coroner’s attendant matched the name on one of the men’s bodies but failed to check the case number, Montiel said. That person sent the wrong remains for cremation.
“It was an oversight caused by human error,” Montiel said in a statement.
The attendant realized the mistake when a mortuary arrived that same day to pick up the man’s remains and discovered his body had already been cremated.
Montiel said the chief medical examiner has apologized to the family of 26-year-old Jorge Hernandez, who died of a drug overdose on Oct. 7.
“The department is profoundly sorry for any additional discomfort that this has caused the loved ones of Mr. Hernandez,” Montiel said.
Hernandez’s parents filed separate claims against the office Thursday, saying they had intended to donate his organs and were making funeral arrangements when they received the news.
“Sorry doesn’t bring him back,” said Mary Lou Diaz of her nephew’s cremation. “I know they have bodies stacking up but there needs to be accountability here … It was devastating. There was no goodbye. There was no closure.”
The coroner’s office has been struggling to reduce a backlog in cases due to staffing shortages. The Times reports that as of Sept. 21, toxicology and other tests have not been completed on more than 1,500 bodies, down from 2,100 in June.